Urgent action needed if Leeds’ community & voluntary organisations are to survive

The Chair of Third Sector Leeds is calling for urgent action and government support, as Covid-19 threatens the future of a significant number of community and voluntary organisations in Leeds.

The call for action follows key findings from a consultation carried out in April and May by Third Sector Leeds - an alliance that represents the third sector in Leeds - and partners. 

Findings from the consultation, which over 160 third sector organisations took part in, have been issued in a full report (The Impact of Covid-19 on the third sector), available at www.doinggoodleeds.org.uk/news.

The report highlights the negative aspects the outbreak has had on the sector and reflects the concerns that many organisations now face.  Key findings include:  

  • Two thirds of third sector organisations in Leeds said that they may not be able to continue beyond the end of 2020
  • 24% of organisations said they are likely to only remain viable for three months or less
  • 74% of respondents identified digital access as an issue for at least one group of their service
  • Some organisations reported that volunteer numbers have reduced by two thirds, whilst others have seen a massive rise in volunteering

Chair of Third Sector Leeds, Chris Hollins, said: “This research has been critical in understanding the state of the sector and unfortunately, the feeling is that things are getting worse as the year goes on.” 

However, the report also identifies a number of positives that the third sector has experienced, from support from funders, to the emergence of new services and the sector’s role in the city-wide response. Positives include:

  • Half of organisations in Leeds have developed new services to respond to the Covid-19 outbreak, such as providing food deliveries, and half have sustained or developed online or phone based services
  • Over half of respondents have been involved in the city’s emergency response volunteering
  • 85% of organisations say their funders have been flexible during the Covid-19 outbreak 

Chris Hollins commented: “The massive success of the third sector’s response has in large part been due to unprecedented levels of cooperation between voluntary organisations and statutory authorities. It’s estimated that the Third Sector contributes £750m to the Leeds economy each year, this is over four times what it receives from public sector funds. The sector needs a strategy for survival from central government.

“Whilst raising money independently through fundraising, social enterprise and grants, the third sector also provides a range of services which are directly contracted to the local authority, and there has been great flexibility in how this works.

“However the council itself now faces threats, and the financial shortfall that Leeds City Council faces is larger than the overall investment it makes in the Third Sector each year. If the city council has an uncertain future, the knock-on impact on the third sector could make the combined loss to the Leeds economy and support to those most in need very substantial indeed.” 

For more information about the report, it’s findings or the action required to support the sector, please contact the Third Sector Leeds team at Voluntary Action Leeds on 0113 297 7920 or email chris.hollins@val.org.uk.

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